Fear the Walking Dead

Why I’m Dropping… Fear the Walking Dead season 2

by Thom Yee

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Fear the Walking Dead images courtesy of AMC

Truth be told, I’d been thinking about it for a while. Or more precisely, I’d thought about dropping Fear the Walking Dead once before and then once again now, and those two passing thoughts were easily enough to convince me to drop the show, because, really, who’s thinking that much about Fear the Walking Dead anyway? To be honest, even I, someone who’s reviewed every episode of the show since it debuted late last summer, had almost completely forgotten about it and was actually kind of taken off guard when I saw that it was coming back to finish the back half of its second season this past weekend.

What made me enjoy Fear in the first place was that it was a version of the Walking Dead concept that had a chance to get things right, it was a second pass to avoid some of the moments of sheer stupidity the parent show had gotten so, so wrong (highly uneven pacing, the whole mess they made of Andrea’s character, anything having to do with Beth, etc.), and for a while it did just that. We got some new angles on old ideas, some of the more gut wrenching moments felt more natural and less melodramatic… other things (I guess, it’s hard to remember anymore). Not everybody loved it, but I at least appreciated Fear in its first season, but as we got further into the second, that appreciation faded quickly. Really quickly. Crazy quickly. All of a sudden, what was an admittedly slower but at least more realistic take on the zombie apocalypse devolved into slow, weary, tortured, symbolically heavy ruminations on the nature of existence and man’s place in the world. And it sucked. And blew. It both sucked and blew.

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I miss zombie basketball the most.  Wait, they never played basketball with zombies, not even once!  What a bunch of phonies!

In trying to be different from The Walking DeadFear the Walking Dead has seems to have chosen the path of slower and dumber and worse rather than intriguing or original or notable or better (or at least comparable), and as that became clear as the season wore on, it became inessential viewing, something that hurt even more when it went up against the return of Game of Thrones in the last few episodes before the midseason break. It became something easy to ignore, not care about, and it turned into something that didn’t even feel connected to its much more fun (but flawed) parent show and its much, much more fun comicbook origins, and thus the fun was gone, the hope was gone, and even the hook was gone. I just don’t care about these people anymore, and it only took seven episodes of this season to get me here.


7. “Grotesque” (final review, series dropped)

 



Why I WAS Watching… Fear the Walking Dead season 2

by Thom Yee
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There was a time long ago (last fall) that I dared to call Fear the Walking Dead a show I enjoyed more than The Walking Dead.  It was a time before the great herding of zombie gulch, the Wolves’ attack on Alexandria, Carol setting everybody on fire, and the solidification of The Walking Dead as less a show but a legend, and thus, in retrospect… it may have been a foolish statement to make.

And yet, here we are at the start of Fear the Walking Dead’s second season, a newer, bigger, longer season and perhaps an unexpected one after a first season that left many unmoved and/or nonplussed about the whole thing. If you think about it very hard or for too long, it actually becomes fairly obvious that, for a variety of reasons, Fear is at a significant disadvantage compared to its parent show. It’s a west-coast family drama rather than a southern-set survivalist nightmare fantasy, it stars characters who haven’t learned anywhere near what we’ve learned of their world, and it’s specifically designed to be a slower, more measured take on a concept we’ve come to associate with extreme violence. They’re not as strong, they’re not as tough, they make stupid, rookie mistakes, and they still hold on to ideals that we’ve long since abandoned.

In a lot of ways, running Fear the Walking Dead immediately after The Walking Dead is a stroke of programming genius in slowly lulling the parent show’s massive audience into continuing with its smaller, lesser progeny. In sort of the same way NBC used to get us to watch whatever show ran between Friends and Seinfeld on the Must See TV of the ‘90s, it’s an admittance of the show’s comparative weakness that it works best in this almost parasitic state. So why am I watching Fear the Walking Dead now in its second season? I guess mostly habit.


1. “Monster”

2. “We All Fall Down”

3. “Ouroboros”

4. “Blood in the Streets”

5. “Captive”

6. “Sicut Cervus”



Why I’m Watching… Fear the Walking Dead

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All images courtesy of AMC and Fox International Channels.

Because I already watch regular The Walking Dead?

Ultimately that’s pretty weak reasoning, but it’s also the type of base reasoning that makes spinoffs possible: hope for a minimum guaranteed audience. Breaking Bad fans watch Better Call Saul. Cheers fans watched Frasier. Friends fans watched Joey. Actually, nobody watched Joey.

In its earliest incarnation as an indie comicbook (aaaall the way back in 2003), The Walking Dead wasn’t a horror story, but a what-happens-after-the-horror story that wasn’t concerned with where the geek/walker/biter/rotter/roamer zombie virus came from, how it took over, if it could be cured, or when things would go back to normal because the real monster is man himself…! Creator Robert Kirkman knew that the real story was less the cause, but more the ongoing effects, and when you think of our series’ villains — the Governor, the cannibals of Terminus, those Claimer jerks — all started from seemingly modest, relatively normal beginnings only to become the all-consuming sources of dread, intimidation, and death that would prove to be the undoing of the variously doomed members of Rick and his morose band of miscreants.

Fear the Walking Dead is the opposite, the origin story, what happened before, the prequel, and we all know how well those usually turn out:

 

But it’s only six episodes, and what else am I going to do on a Sunday night? Something worthwhile?


1. “Pilot”

2. “So Close, Yet So Far”

3. “The Dog”

4. “Not Fade Away”

5. “Cobalt”

6. “The Good Man”

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